KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- The U.S. Forest Service wants public input as to what should happen with the Green Mountain National Forest, south of Route 9.
William Jackson, district ranger for the Manchester Ranger District, said public hearings will be held in early October in the towns of Pownal, Stamford, and Readsboro. No dates have been established, as they depend on the availability of local elementary schools where the meetings will be held, but they will likely occur in the evenings from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Known as the "South of Route 9 Integrated Resource Project," the plan will lay out what is to happen with the forest over the course of the next three to five years, said Jackson, who along with other employees of the Forest Service have been appearing at local Select Board meetings to talk about the project.
"The immediate plan is to get a sense of what is out there on the ground," Jackson said, adding that the public who frequent the woods often know more about it than administrators in the Forest Service and can tell them what is there, and what needs to be done.
To get an idea of what may happen, one can look the recently completed Dorset/Peru Integrated Resource Project. Jackson said he approved a timber harvesting plan for 2,047 acres of that forest, about 7.2 miles of improvements to hiking trails around Dorset Mountain, the upgrading of three culverts to allow aquatic animals passage, and the restoration of logging roads no longer being used.
He said once the public hearing phase is complete, the Forest Service puts together a "scoping package," which the public also comments on. Once that is done it goes through a permitting process in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, which is similar to the state Act 250 permitting process. Once the NEPA process is complete, the Forest Service then works on an internal implementation plan which prioritizes the approved projects and looks for local partners to help fund and work on them.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.